There is a torrent of information available on social media related to fitness. If you want an opinon on how to exercise, eat, sleep, or cogitate, social media is your place, as long as you don’t believe everything you see.
Recently, spirulina has come to my attention. It started when Energy Bits was tweeting about their product, during a #runchat. One thing led to another and I found myself holding a cute round tin full of 100% spirulina algae tablets.
Had I not been educated by the EnergyBits representative and other research I conducted, I would probably still be calling spirulina a supplement, but it is a food. Spirulina is grown in water (it takes a month to grow), harvested, dried, and packaged.
The claims made by fans of spirulina lead a consumer to believe that consuming this protein packed, nutrient rich algae may lead to:
- increased energy level
- increased endurance
- increased alertness
- reduced blood pressure
- weight loss
- reduced hunger
- reduced fatigue
- healthier skin and hair
Who wouldn’t want all that, especially if the way to get it involves simply swallowing a handful of tablets a few minutes before a workout (or before any task that requires focus)?
I agreed to try a sample of Energy Bits. (I should have read the admonition to “swallow” rather than “chew” as a beginner because that first tablet definitely had an “under the sea” taste to it!) On two mornings, I swallowed 30 tablets five minutes before my scheduled interval workouts.
The first outing, my cumulative time for an interval workout was 5 seconds faster than the previous identical workout.
The second outing, my cumulative time for an interval workout was 2 seconds faster than the previous identical workout.
This was not a scientific study — my faster times could have been a function of my improved conditioning, a morning temperature that was slightly cooler than before, or legs that were at a different stage of “tired.” But all runners want to be faster so I’ll take it and I’ll give the Energy Bits credit in these cases!
I also noticed on each of the days, especially the first day, that my appetite seemed to have less of an edge and my energy level felt steadier than typical as the day progressed. Summer days that start with 5 a.m. workouts don’t always bode well for a “drag-free” work day so I can use all the help I can get there.
For another perspective on Energy Bits, check out Shannon Colavecchio’s review here. I agree with Shannon that the price point of $115 for a month’s supply (1000 tabs) presents a challenge to some (including me right now).
To add to my “spirulina experiment,” I also consumed energy bars containing the algae on three mornings last week. The first was “Spirulina Ballerina” from Barre Bar.
Spirulina Ballerina contains: Dates, walnuts, pecans, agave nectar, hemp seed, hemp protein, rolled oats, ground flax seed, dried coconut flakes, brown rice protein, spirulina, vanilla, sea salt, peanuts.
I kept the spirulina sequence going Saturday morning with a “Spirulina Dream” bar from Raw Revolution.
Here are the ingredients: Organic Cashews, Organic Dates, Organic Sunflower Seed Kernels, Organic Agave Nectar, Organic Almonds, Organic Spirulina Powder, Organic Sprouted Flax Seed (They contain tree nuts and are peanut free.)
In the case of both Spirulina Bars, at the risk of stating the obvious, I will tell you that each one was a shade of green that was a very vivid thing to wake up to! When I showed one boot camp friend the picture of one, she said “it looks like a shingle.” It may be difficult to turn an algae bar into a beauty queen among food bars, but the nutritious qualities (especially the appetite reduction) make up for the cosmetic challenges. Spirulina is, to me, still an acquired taste. But it is one that I could get used to and I think if I were more in the habit of eating vegan, it may not seem so drastically different from the breakfast foods I typically consume.
Back to my verdict about spirulina.
I am pretty skeptical about sales pitches. For that reason, I dig around for source documents.
This ifood.tv post provides a good overview of spirulina’s characteristics.
I found the original document that provides the background behind the role spirulina algae plays for NASA (a big part of the pitch for spirulina).
The parent company of Energy Bits talks extensively about the use of algae by Olympic athletes in this press release.
One of the claims about algae that I particularly love, since I have an interest in the fate of food-impoverished people all over the world (don’t we all?) is that The World Bank and the United Nations have (according to Energy Bits) “declared algae to be the answer to the world’s food shortage.” The Intergovernmental Institution for the Use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition, (IIMSAM), a permanent observer to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, has declared spirulina “as one of the most efficient tools through which the malice of malnutrition can be successfully tackled worldwide.” Wow.
Spirulina – it starts as this:
And has the potential to do so much……….